A Guardedly Optimistic Prognosis for Conservatism
The Right must successfully face its own shortcomings to advance.
When discussing Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency, it must be noted that in some ways his nomination — and election — were an act of desperation. Trump’s negatives, which many conservatives have already weighed, were overridden because of preexisting conditions.
The undeniable reality, based on a pattern of abuse that not only hit Trump but reached from the IRS targeting the Tea Party to what amounted to a coup in Missouri, was that there was a serious cancer developing, and measures had to be taken to fight it. Those measures, including the election of President Trump, were a form of civic chemotherapy.
The nomination of Trump was also a form of chemotherapy that was intended to address a cancer on the Right. The fact was, too many on the Right treated politics as if it were a debate competition and were willing to lose to maintain “principles” and to be seen as good sports. This came to the point of ignoring the need for strategy and tactics to achieve the implementation of those principles into actual policy.
In addition, too many stuck with unilateral political disarmament even as it was proven to be a dangerous folly with the growing list of abuses and smears. What makes that even more tragic is that some of those who went NeverTrump were seeing some of the abuses clearly. David French, for instance, wrote eloquently on the “John Doe” investigations in Wisconsin for National Review, but failed, ultimately, to recognize that addressing this civic cancer required civic chemotherapy, and that said civic chemotherapy would not be pleasant. Yet French expends far more energy these days blasting Trump instead of working to defeat the abuses he detailed in 2015, much less ensure accountability for them.
Cancer, whether the type invading a human body or the civic cancer that makes abuses of power acceptable, doesn’t just roll over and die. It tends to try to recur, and to stick around. The poisonous political pacifism too many on the Right had was one type of civic cancer, and it was threatening to kill the conservative movement. And some NeverTrumpers, like French and Amanda Carpenter, prefer to ignore the symptoms and carry on as if this is an intellectual debate instead of an existential fight.
The good news is that Trump’s presidency has demonstrated enough efficacy that many Republicans and conservatives now are willing fight back — and expect it from those who would lead them. Many on the Right are discovering you can fight back and survive. While Trump’s counterpunches can reach the point of cruelty, as some recent tweets have shown, it beats the alternative of just rolling over from the usual lies and left-wing hatred. In any case, Trump’s vigorous counterpunching, while not perfect, beats doing nothing.
Right now, because of Trump having put the poisonous political pacifism that led to unilateral political disarmament in retreat, the conservative movement has a guardedly optimistic prognosis. Things could take a bad turn, though. From what we have seen, should Trump lose reelection, the Left will move to criminalize opposition to their agenda and reverse any efforts to hold those who did carry out abuses accountable.
It’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen.